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When the clock ticked past midnight to mark the start of 2012, Chinese trampoline gymnast Dong Dong made three wishes: “Go to London; win the gold medal; bring it back home.” A two-time world individual champion at the time, the Zhengzhou-born athlete was intent on bettering his performance at Beijing 2008, where he won bronze in a desperately close final, finishing just 0.4 points adrift of his gold-medal-winning compatriot Lu Chunlong.
Dong began his bid for glory at London by topping the standings in the qualification round, just ahead of Russia’s Dmitry Ushakov and defending champion Lu. Raising the bar even higher in the final, Dong drew gasps from the crowd as he executed a varied and technically challenging routine to perfection, earning himself additional points in a new element, time of flight, spending more than 18 seconds in the air before making an absolutely flawless landing.
Cheered on by a legion of Chinese fans chanting his name and waving national flags, Dong comfortably outscoring his two rivals in terms of difficulty and execution, totalling 62.990 points in all to fulfil his new year wishes, with Ushakov taking the silver and Lu the bronze.
“I’ve been looking forward to the competition so much,” said the newly crowned champion afterwards. “It’s not so much of a result as a milestone in my life. You can’t judge people solely on victory or defeat. It was my biggest dream and I’m so happy.”
Silver medallist Ushakov was in doubt that he had been beaten by the better man: “He really was the strongest in the final.”
“The most important moment has passed now, and I have to go away and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead,” added Dong, “It doesn’t matter if I win or lose. The most important thing in life is to make the most of what you’ve got.”
On top of his game
A gymnast from the age of five, Dong turned his attention to the trampoline in 2002, on the advice of his coaches, and made his international debut for China four years later. His first gold medal came in the team event at the 2007 FIG World Championships in Quebec (CAN), where he also collected individual silver.
He went one better at the 2009 worlds in St Petersburg (RUS), when another team gold came his way, and retained his individual world title in Metz (FRA) a year later, while also teaming up with Tu Xiao to win the synchronised title. He then geared up for his London triumph by medalling in all the events on the programme at the 2011 worlds in Birmingham (GBR), winning silvers in the team, individual and synchronised competitions, linking up again with Tu in the last of those events.<7p>
Dong has continued to soar since then. Setting his sights on arriving in Rio in top condition for his Olympic title defence, the Chinese trampolinist secured a third world individual gold in Sofia (BUL) in 2013, and won two more world synchronised titles with Tu at Daytona Beach (USA) in 2014 and Odense (DAN) the following year. He also finished second to his synchro partner in the individual competition at Daytona Beach, with his world championship medal haul now standing at 14, of which 10 are golds.
A permanent fixture on world and Olympic podiums for almost a decade, Dong is aiming for greatness again at Rio 2016, where he will hope to add a second Olympic gold to the one he claimed in such spectacular fashion in London.